Iran-Contra veterans; creepy corps corrupt intelligence; legit Iraq rant

Having a low-key afternoon after the Wednesday street market closed in Treguier. Outside my aunt & uncle's spot the vendors have been peddling their wares all morning.

We just watched the traditional afternoon game of Bocci-like bowling in a gravel parking lot in front of the river. Small kids, older folks, the young tough-looking dudes, everyone plays nicely together. They basically throw a tiny rubber ball out about 25 feet, then try to throw three metal balls apiece at it. Whoever lands the closest wins. I was surprised no one got pegged in the head. I took a few video clips; when I get back I'll share more digital bits than you can handle...

England started flooding severely the day we left; fortunately enough for us, the Stansted Airport actually had few problems. I bumped into a number of interesting news stories today.

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First of all, from the quite interesting site TheSpyWhoBilledMe.com, which focuses on the creepy and probably damaging outsourcing of intelligence, we learn that many really important products of intelligence analysis in Washington DC are generated by private contractors, who have become thoroughly integrated with the CIA, DIA and other intelligence agencies. The whole thing sucks in 'Corporate Content and the President's Daily Brief:'

Employees of corporations are handling sensitive government responsibilities in the Intelligence Community, including analytical products that are incorporated into our nation’s most important and sensitive document, the President’s Daily Brief. Thanks to outsourcing, for-profit companies have the American president’s ear on a daily basis and their words carry the weight of the combined intelligence agencies of the United States. The possibilities for manipulating politics on a global scale are unprecedented and chilling.

The President’s Daily Brief is a summary and analysis of national security issues that requires the President’s immediate attention and that the National Intelligence Director presents to the President each morning.

Across the board, US government intelligence agencies are now highly dependent upon the staff of companies for critical national security functions. Corporate intelligence professionals from companies such as Lockheed, Raytheon, Booz Allen Hamilton, SAIC and others are thoroughly integrated into analytical divisions throughout the Intelligence Community, including the Office of the Director of National Intelligence which produces the final document of the President’s Daily Briefing, based upon analytical products created by the Intelligence Community. It would be hard to find an analytical product that does not have contractor involvement in some way, shape, or form. And it’s not just the products. Raw intelligence gathered by contractors also goes into the pipeline.

These analytical products from multiple agencies are sifted through, probably in part by contractors, and presented to the President every day as the US Government’s most accurate and most current assessment of priority national security issues. It’s true that the government pays for and signs off on the assessment, but much of the analysis and even some of the underlying intelligence gathering is corporate. Corporations have so penetrated the Intelligence Community that it’s impossible to distinguish their work from the government’s. Although the President’s Daily Brief has the seal of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, it is misleading. For full disclosure, the PDB really should look more like NASCAR with corporate logos plastered all over it.

Theoretically, if a corporation wanted to manipulate the national security agenda, it could introduce something into the system and no one would realize what’s happening, particularly since these companies have analysts and often intelligence collectors spread throughout the system. For argument’s sake, let’s say a company is frustrated with a government that’s hampering its business or business of one of its clients. Introducing and spinning intelligence on that government’s suspected collaboration with terrorists would quickly get the White House’s attention and could be used to shape national policy. To get us into the Iraq war, manipulation of intelligence regarding alleged weapons of mass destruction had to be very artfully done to short-circuit a formidable bureaucracy designed to prevent just such warping of intelligence. Due to the shift toward wide-scale industrial outsourcing in the Intelligence Community, that safeguard has been eroded.

Iran-Contra Revisited: Laura Rozen points out that a Sy Hersh angle is coming all too true. Back in March, Sy reported that

Iran-Contra was the subject of an informal "lessons learned" discussion two years ago among veterans of the scandal. Abrams led the discussion. One conclusion was that even though the program was eventually exposed, it had been possible to execute it without telling Congress. As to what the experience taught them, in terms of future covert operations, the participants found: "One, you can’t trust our friends. Two, the C.I.A. has got to be totally out of it. Three, you can’t trust the uniformed military, and four, it’s got to be run out of the Vice-President’s office"--a reference to Cheney’s role, the former senior intelligence official said.

Which all reeks of uncanny accuracy, as well as echoing the quite true fact that everything got piped thru GW Bush's VP office back in the 1980s.

So today we find that basically whenever Congress wants to hold someone in Contempt for their various lies and stonewalling on Capitol Hill, then the U.S. Attorneys will be ordered to roll over like the puppies they are and stay right there on the rug, according to WaPo:

Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.
The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.
Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, "whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action."
But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.

Finally Rosen concludes the only possible conclusion:

Perhaps that is the take-away that Abrams' Iran Contra lessons learned exercise derived: with a closed circle feedback loop in which Congress's authority is consistently subjugated to the executive, the White House can get away with anything, and is indeed not subject to the rule of law. Under the Bush administration's definition, there are no checks on the executive branch, the very foundation of our democracy.

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Here's a useful one from Ian @ The Agonist: The War on Terror is the War on Drugs... on Crack. Because your legal system's erosion started with asset forfeiture and all that other insane shit first. Note Don's comment at the bottom about how he quit believing politicians after he saw the CIA pilot landing lotsa coke and weed. Don, an Agonist regular, (sig: 'i did inhale') spent some time in jail because he couldn't quite get out of his bit part in Iran-contra... he flicks off traffic security cameras in Texas nowadays.

Maryam: the well-justified rants of an Iraqi aid worker: There are a lot of people on the Internet pissed off and ranting for lame reasons. Maryam ain't one of em; she works cleaning up the mess in Iraq, trying to patch up wounded children and so forth. On various comments on a FireDogLake thread, she lets loose an ugly, but quite understandable, series of angry thoughts which crystallize the reality we can't handle facing in America, instead cowering behind abstractions:

Stop telling lies to yourself American. We know that your racist brutal murdering war criminal troops came from your society and reflect its values. we know that because we see how they behave and have to bury their victims. If you are stupid enough to think we feel anything but hatred and contrempt for your soldiers and the country that sent them to make war on my people then you are a fool.

As to Saddam bad though he was your country is far worse.

.......As I am an Iraki and as my job is to treat children maimed and deformed by the weapons your country uses and then prevented me from getting the medicines used to treat those cancers you will forgive me if I tell you that you too are telling lies to yourself. What we konw is that when it comes murdering Iraki civilians that there is no difference between the cynical and corrupt party called the Democrats and the cynical and corrupt party called the Republicans. Both are infected with the belief that America has the right to behave as it wishes especially when the people being killed are not white.

.......The Red Crescent to answer your question Siun is the only body working everywhere in Irak and outside it. It is probably the best way for those who want to undo some of the evil that America does to Irakis to help with humanitarian relief.

There are few people with more justifiable rants. Good luck to Maryam out there, somewhere on the fringe of oblivion.

Well I am off for now, probably not going to post anything for a few days as we enjoy Paris and the tail-end of this excellent two-week vacation. When I return, it'll be to a country still sliding quite rapidly downhill... Where it goes, nobody knows. At least i'll be a little more relaxed, enough to deal with things better in the future than I have lately.

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